Why Paid Social Media Will Increase Your Reach and Scale

Ever get the feeling that you are the only company not using paid social media? Or that you are wasting those hard-earned social advertising dollars and getting a shabby return on investment? You’re not the only one. Many have wasted their fair share on Facebook and Twitter ads and wondered what exactly went wrong.

WHAT SPARKED MY INTEREST IN PAID SOCIAL MEDIA?

Reach. As the most popular social media sites have matured and monetized over the past five years or so — namely, Facebook — one of the casualties has been organic reach. When brands first started posting on Facebook, they would reach 30-50% of their overall audience. For this reason, brands rushed to gain as many followers as possible, because followers meant content exposure. Some have even predicted organic reach will drop to zero in the future.

Everyone remembers the elaborate content campaigns from Fortune 50 brands announcing how they’ve reached one million followers. That meant something when we could reach a significant percentage of those people. Now? Not so much. We have several ways to boost organic reach tactically, like producing excellent content, understanding each platform’s algorithm and engaging influencers.

Right now, the most consistent and strategic way to gain reach and scale among the targets brands care about is through paid social media.

MANY PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PAID, EARNED, SHARED AND OWNED MEDIA. HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT? HOW DO THEY WORK TOGETHER?

The paid, earned, shared, owned model (PESO is the easy way to remember it) is a useful way to differentiate among all the possible channels and activities in a client’s online marketing mix. When the model was created, it assumed a division between social media and paid promotion. A newer model takes paid social media and content syndication into account.

 

Credit: Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks

The most important takeaway from the PESO model is, it helps integrated marketers remember the need to think holistically about every program. For brands that tend to post content as a compulsory tactic — “It’s best practice to post three times a week, and we don’t know why.” — PESO forces them to consider not only content, but strategic distribution. In social, adhering to a more holistic model than “post and pray” results in measurable outcomes and, most importantly, increased accountability.

HOW SHOULD PAID SOCIAL BE USED (AND NOT BE USED)?

Paid social should be used when you know the specific business objective you’re trying to affect. If you’re aligning to a SMART business objective (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based), then you have permission to use paid social. You’ll have a difficult time mechanically executing paid social without knowing your audience and business drivers. If you have a clearly written communications objective supporting a business objective, then setting up the paid social campaigns will leave you less frustrated during the process.

“To generate buzz” … Among whom? Compared with what? What type of “buzz”?

Vs.

“To increase the competitive social share of voice in Q3 by 25% among 35-49 yr old female wine drinkers with at least a 700 credit rating.” Oh, got it.

Paid social, like any communications tactic, should not be used without knowing what success means in advance. If you’re simply trying to “amplify” a post that has “done well,” you still need to know the specific audience and have a strategic objective. Beware of any offers to “boost this post for $XX” without a strategy. It’s enticing platform marketing, but it’s a guaranteed way to drain your out-of-pocket social budget.

WHICH SOCIAL CHANNELS DO I THINK ARE THE BEST FOR PAID SOCIAL AND WHY?

It depends on your objectives and target audiences. Twitter and Facebook are comparable when it comes to audience-targeting capabilities, though many are critical of each platform for mostly the same reasons. Twitter’s growth has slowed. Facebook bases much of its targeting on the assumption that Liking a Page five years ago still matters.

Personally, I’m impressed with Facebook’s targeting capabilities most. Being able to dictate reach and frequency (guarantee how many people will see an ad, and how many times they’ll see it), is a differentiator for driving consumers down the funnel. The Facebook user interface is more user-friendly, especially for people just getting into buying social ads. You can even promote ads on Instagram through Facebook ads, without having an Instagram account.

That said, I’ve had a great deal of success with Twitter’s targeting capabilities for foodie audiences. There are several niche groups that still use Twitter as their primary social media platform. If you want to reach a political audience interested in driving grassroots initiatives in local markets, for example, Twitter is the best option by far.

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of LinkedIn means advertisers will need to consider it as the platform becomes more ubiquitous and starts tying directly to Microsoft’s suite. Currently, I think LinkedIn’s strength is in its recruiting, B2B and executive visibility offerings. Being able to target by industry and seniority, for example, is a competitive advantage in social advertising. But beware: These are real professionals you’re reaching in a competitive marketplace, and your cost-per-impression (CPM) and cost-per-click (CPC) will reflect that.

And a fun one for SMBs who want to reach Millennials (should be everyone): Snapchat has a self-service module for creating geofilter lenses. This means when people use Snapchat filters in a specific location, your event could pop up in the mix. Creating a Snapchat geofilter is one of the few truly easy and cheap social media advertising tactics. Simply create the transparent file, draw the map, set a run time and upload for review. Not a designer? You can even choose from free templates. Reviews typically take one business day. Try it here (while you still can).

ARE THERE ANY COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT PAID SOCIAL?

There are two prevailing misconceptions about paid social media: It’s expensive, and it’s too difficult to execute. If you have SMART objectives and a little time to learn the ins and outs of paid social ads execution, you can launch a cost-efficient test-and-learn campaign in an afternoon. 

IF SOMEONE HAS NEVER DONE SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING BEFORE, WHERE WOULD I RECOMMEND THEY START? ANY RESOURCES, BEGINNER TACTICS OR TOOLS?

Start small. Experimenting with small budgets is a low-risk way to see what works for your organization while becoming comfortable for when larger opportunities come along. For smaller clients and pro bono work, I’ve had success with hyper-local awareness targeting (think a one-mile radius around a local business) for as little as $5-$10 per day. Check out free platform tutorials resources like Facebook Blueprint and Twitter Flight School to learn what’s possible.

IF I COULD ONLY SHARE THREE PIECES OF ADVICE RELATED TO PAID SOCIAL, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

  1. UNDERSTAND THE BIG PICTURE: Every single tactic you execute should be tied to SMART business and communications objectives. If your paid social approach is to amplify your message to “the public,” take a step back and be more specific about your targeting and objectives. You’ll save time and money.
  2. EXPERIMENT NOW, BE READY LATER: You don’t need a million-dollar ad budget to make an impact in social. Test-and-learn with a modest budget now. You’ll have the audiences and insights you’ll need to make a larger impact at scale later.
  3. DON’T FORGET YOUR REPUTATION: When it comes to social media ads, you can’t set it and forget it. Be sure to monitor all paid posts and respond to consumers as quickly as possible. Pay attention to the news. If something trends on Twitter that aligns with your ad, consider adding those key terms to your targeting to increase engagement. 

LET'S CONNECT.

First, what are your thoughts about paid social? Let me know in the comments, or connect with me here and on Twitter.